Social Intelligence Strategies for Early Stage Companies

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Growing a startup business can be challenging on many fronts, from raising capital to developing technology, but there is one thing that is even more important to its long-term success: hiring the right people. 

As early stage companies look to expand teams to meet customer demand, they need to bring on the best talent, and that means they will be looking for people with certain attributes. Testing of current and potential employees is nothing new; however, recent developments in psychometrics have allowed human resources professionals a much more accurate way to measure different types of intelligence to determine a person’s likelihood of successful performance on the job.

The importance of social intelligence

The concept of social intelligence (SI) was popularized in the late 1990s, when Daniel Goleman released the book Social Intelligence. According to a 2009 interview with Goleman in the Harvard Business Review (“Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership”), social intelligence becomes especially important in times of crisis. Notably, in an example cited in the article about a Canadian health care system that was forced to endure a reorganization and drastic cutbacks, it was the nurses and frontline workers with socially intelligent bosses that reported good emotional health and an enhanced ability to care for their patients, even during the stress of layoffs. At the same time, “workers whose leaders scored low on social intelligence reported unmet patient-care needs at three times the rate – and emotional exhaustion at four times the rate – of their colleagues who had supportive leaders,” said Goleman.

Related: 3 Social-Intelligence Methods for Building Strong Stakeholder …

While startup companies tend to favor expertise over social intelligence when hiring someone to guide the company, a crisis manager needs both. 

According to Goleman, “the salient discovery is that certain things that leaders do – specifically exhibit empathy and become attuned to others’ moods – literally affects both their own brain chemistry and that of their followers.” Interestingly, when this occurs, researchers have found that their brains are reacting to one another, either consciously or unconsciously. In a sense, these leaders are able to behave in such a way as to powerfully leverage this system of brain interconnectedness. One conclusion reached here was that a powerful way to become a great leader is finding authentic contexts in which learn the social behaviors that reinforce another person’s social circuitry. Effectively, this practice becomes less about mastering certain skill sets and more about developing a genuine interest in, and talent for, developing positive feelings in the people whose support and cooperation is needed.

The CHRO and the future of work

Today’s human resources leaders recognize the need to be more analytical about identifying leadership talent. Ideally, the CEO and Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) partnership plays a pivotal role in the company’s growth. In a recent interview with Hitch, Kelly Steven-Waiss, CHRO of HERE Technologies, says this: “As the key advisor to the CEO, the CHRO must not only be able to understand the external threats and drivers but translate those into strategies to mitigate risk and leverage opportunities. They will need to be THE steward of change across multiple stakeholders, including the board of directors, shareholders, executive peers, and employees.”

A CHRO must be prepared to respond to the rising challenges CEOs face in preparing for the future of work. They will need to predict human capital needs, upskill existing employees and be knowledgeable about the new technologies that are fueling the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Using psychometrics to evaluate talent

Psychometric testing is used at a little less than 20 percent of companies, most commonly for recruitment and hiring, but also to identify and minimize derailing behaviors among high-potential leaders. Testing reveals how leaders who lack self-awareness fail to learn from their experiences. Research in applied psychometrics has revealed very specific problems among faulty leaders, including:

  • Problems with interpersonal relationships

  • Failure to build and lead a team

  • Lack of self-awareness

  • Inability to learn from feedback and experience

  • Trust/integrity issues

  • Inability to change or adapt

  • Poor composure under stress

  • Over-reliance on strengths

Typically, startups do not have the budget necessary to hire large consulting firms to administer psychometric evaluations for leadership development, nor are they aware of applicable anti-discrimination laws that may apply to such testing. For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act provides specific guidelines for using psychometrics within organizations, saying they must respect people’s privacy and not aim to diagnose potential hires or employees in any way.

Related: Emotional Intelligence is the Secret to Leadership in Times of Crisis

Sports psychologists for the win

In addition to psychometric testing, startups are looking for innovative ways to develop those must-have capabilities that allow leaders to function well in high-stress environments. Some of these “corporate athlete” qualities closely mirror those of professional athletes, such as focus, teamwork, attention to a plan, and building stamina for a big event.

One of the overarching goals for sports and business is helping individuals accept what cannot be changed and gaining control over what can be changed. This means investing time into the aspects of the job that can be personally managed, such as concentration, emotions, and productivity levels. In other words, it is not just about minimizing problems; it is about stretching an individual’s capacities.

Contrary to mainstream beliefs, sport psychology principles and practices are not only used to enhance motivation. In reality, many other elements fall into the realm of sports psychology, such as developing effective team and communication strategies, awareness of one’s role on the team, and establishing plans to execute on short and long-term goals. All of these concepts are vital to success in both sports and business.

Data to insights to action

Just as startups and established businesses rely on big data to gain insights on their customers, their HR executives are placing a higher value on data about employees. One company that is helping them apply psychometric data is SurePeople. 

Using a unique methodology called Predictive People Analytics, SurePeople synthesizes the most relevant people data to derive predictive insights and prescribe specific actions for organizational leaders and stakeholders. By analyzing psychometric data, and anonymous employee feedback, SurePeople empowers leaders to build stronger and more effective teams. The data is also used to help team members with personal development, including achieving higher Emotional, Relational and Team intelligence (ERT-i). 

Whatever course is chosen to enhance individual and team effectiveness, it is evident that psychometrics and social intelligence will play a pivotal role in the success of any startup business, and data will provide valuable and actionable insights. As Albert Einstein once wisely stated, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Related: How Bill Gates Learned to Be an Empathetic Leader

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